Fishing for the best baitcaster reel on the internet? Our team has just finished an in-depth exploration of nearly 20 of the highest reviewed, best-selling reels that we could find, all in an effort to narrow it down to the top 6 for your shopping convenience.
Are you an angler that has not yet had the pleasure of casting a line into the sea or ocean? Well, let us be the first to tell you that you can’t just use the same old fishing setup that you take to the creek to fish for rainbow trout. Baitcasting requires bigger reels, thicker line, and more advanced drag systems than freshwater poles. For this reason, they can be a lot more expensive, but if you know what you’re looking for, it is possible to find saltwater fishing reels that won’t set you back all that much.
Here is our list of the best baitcasting reels for saltwater fishing, organized by top features as determined by our editorial board. Afterwards we are going to share some helpful tips that you can use to shop for saltwater baitcasters, as well as answer a few of the most common questions that we receive on the topic.
Editor’s Choice for Inshore – Shimano Curado K CU200K
|Gear Ratio||up to 8.5:1|
|Max Drag Power||11 lbs|
Anyone who has spent any significant amount of time casting has probably come across a Shimano reel. We’ve been casting with them for decades, all the way back to the Shimano Green Bantam which is one of our favorite reels of all time. The Curado is a model that lives up to the brand’s reputation for quality. This reel is easy to care for, easy to adjust, and also happens to be significantly more expensive that most of the upper-level pro fishing reels. Some people might compare it to the Abu Garcia REVO STX, but in our opinion, the Curado is a bit smoother and not quite as “clicky”.
In fact the Chimano Curado quite possibly has the smoothest drag in this price range. Like other Shimano reels however there is a slight chance at some ball-bearing rust over time, but the overall stability and smoothness more than makes up for it.
Best Low Gear Ratio – Abu Garcia REVO STX
|Max Drag Power||20 lbs|
Even though it is a little loud, the Abu Garcia REVO STX is one of the best models that we have seen from this company in a long time. Dual braking systems (centrifugal & magnetic) is what really sets this model apart from its predecessors, but no doubt the fact that it is several ounces lighter is going to make a lot of people happy. The brakes can be a little finicky and somewhat difficult to activate if you have long fingers, but this is something that you can usually master with just a little bit of practice. If you pair this reel with a medium heavy rod, the result will be a lighter, shorter package that is great for shore casting or lake fishing.
If you are new to the sport, then the REVO STX is going to take a little while to get used to. The best thing to make this process a bit faster is to hop online and check out the YouTube tutorials on how to master the REVO STX and other Abu Garcia products.
Budget Pick – KastKing Royale
|Max Drag Power||17.5 lbs|
For the price, the KastKing Royale is one of the best values on our list … something that fishing enthusiasts of all make and model should be able to appreciate. But what really defines this rod is its ability to make baitcasting fun and easy for new users or people who are just getting into the sport. As you can imagine, not everyone wants to fork out four hundred bucks for a reel that they have no idea how to use. But just because this thing is cheap doesn’t mean that you have to settle for any kind of drop in quality.
The dual braking system is absolutely top of the line, and when paired with the 7.0:1 gear ratio, you have a budget-level bait caster that is still tournament ready for the more experienced users. Of course, you will have to accept a certain degree of wear and tear to occur. This is not the most sturdy or strong reel on our list, so people who are using it every weekend should only expect to get a couple seasons out of it before seeking a replacement.
Ultralight Baitcast Fishing Reel – Piscifun Phantom
|Max Drag Power||17 lbs|
There are a number of things about the Piscifun Phantom that make us really impressed when you factor in the affordable price point. The left plate offers easy open access to the dual braking system. The magnetic brake is 0-10 and the centrifugal brake is of 6 pin construction, which is about as good as the braking systems on KastKing or Aby Garcia. The integrated star drag clicker system is surprisingly made of aluminum, which is no doubt where this reel gets its “ultralight” designation. This is in addition to the ultralight carbon handle (super sturdy, as well) and high-density EVA foam grips. All in all it is a super comfortable reel with some impressive performance components. Our team had a hard time deciding between the Piscifun Phantom and the KastKing Royale when trying to decide on our budget pick… but since this is a few bucks more than the KastKing the decision was really made for us. Still, this little reel is way more high-quality than it has any right to be, considering the price.
Best Casting Distance on a Baitcast Reel – Daiwa Costal
|Max Drag Power||15.4 lbs|
It has been a long time since we have been able to actually take a Daiwa out on the water. If we are remembering correctly, it was one of the old Tournament Pro reels from Daiwa that we can last recall, which we loved for their ability to handle a diverse array of jig weights and lure types. Like so many of us, however, we switched to Shimano about a decade ago and really haven’t looked back. The Daiwa Costal, however, is shaping up to be a big comeback for Daiwa. This is a super-smooth reel that performs as if it is in an entirely different class… but in actuality it is fairly moderately priced.
The magnetic cast control is hands-down the best thing about this reel, and it is how the Costal can provide support for both light and heavy lures and jigs. It is actually so easy to control that it is getting to the point where we can easily see updating all our old Shimano rigs to Daiwa over time, especially if they keep up this kind of quality.
Best of the Rest – Penn Squall LevelWind
|Max Drag Power||16.9 lbs|
Not everybody fishes with Penn gear, but we have noticed that the folks who do tend to be very loyal to the brand. This is probably because Penn currently makes some of the most reliable gear for live bait fishing, and the Squall Level Wind (LW) is a great representation of that. This model is particularly well suited for anglers who could use a bit of help when it comes to leveling the retrieval line, as there is some automatic functionality here. The tactile sense of distance that comes from the clicking detents might be annoying to some new users, but it is actually a great sensory-based way to know how much line you are letting out, especially with kite fishing where the name of the game is letting line out and then bringing it right back in. The Penn Level Wind is a beautiful looking reel that is pretty fairly priced… a great performance reel that should accommodate any skill level, but you are going to need to use a more expensive braded line if you really want to take full advantage of the drag capabilities.
Bait Caster Reels: What to Check When Shopping for Fishing Reels [2021 Buyer’s Guide]
Bait casting is a whole new ballgame when it comes to fishing. The additional weight of live bait or massive lures and jigs can completely re-define what an angler needs out of their equipment, and the most important piece of equipment hands down would be the reel.
Baitcaster reels can hold more line and have a smoother drag than traditional reels, and the be certain they are the only option for deep sea fishing where longer, stronger line is an absolute necessity.
If you are looking for a new saltwater fishing reel, you’ve come to the right place. But if none of the 6 models that we reviewed above are doing the trick for you, then it might be necessary to step out into the digital world and do a bit of digging for yourself.
Here are some of the things that we took into consideration when making our guide. Hopefully they will help you along your shopping journey!
When it comes to fishing, the term drag refers to the reel’s ability to let line out of the reel without placing too much stress on the line. This is important when you are battling a fish in the ocean, because if you want to prevent your line from snapping you are going to need a reliable way to relieve that tension. The best baitcasting reels are designed with drag systems that can be adjusted instantaneously, usually by simply turning a knob on the reel. This means that the user can make real-time decisions about how much drag is necessary to bring the fish in.
There is some disagreement about how loud a reel should be, and the concept of drag plays heavily into this. Some anglers prefer to have a louder, more sensory-apparent method of judging how much line is going out … which is why reels make that signature “clicking” sound in the first place. However it is possible to get baitcasting reels that are a lot more silent for people who prefer it that way.
A reel’s gear ratio is one of the most important factors in how it is going to perform with different kinds of fishing, and because of this, it is one of the most highly advertised features when you are looking at a package or an online product description.
To put it simply, a reel’s gear ratio is the measure of how much line it brings in for each complete turn of the reels handle. A low gear ratio will bring in less line per turn, and similarly, a high gear ratio will bring in more line per turn.
High gear ratio rods (like the Shimano Curado K with a 8.5:1 ratio) allow the angler to bring in more line in a shorter amount of time, which is absolutely necessary when you are battling big fish in the deep ocean and bringing them in quickly is the name of the game.
Reels with a smaller gear ratio are closer to 3:1 or 4:1, but these ratios would be ineffective for any kind of saltwater fishing. The minimum gear ratio you want to look for on a baitcaster is about 6:1.
It makes sense that the deeper the body of water is, the more line you might need to successfully bring in that fish that you have been battling. This is why all saltwater fishing requires longer reels that lake fishing or creek fishing, usually by a significant amount. This makes the reels larger, heavier, and generally more complicated than their smaller counterparts, but it is more than worth it when you consider the amount of extra line that you are getting in return.
A large line capacity is also preferred for saltwater fishing because it can cover you in the case of a line break. If you have enough line still on the spool, then getting the whole line re-rigged is a lot faster if you snap a line while something is on the hook.
When it comes to baitcasting reels, you can look for both low profile and round profile reels.
Low Profile Baitcaster Reels are designed for fishermen who like to have a bit more control over their bait line for smaller species of fish, like those that you would find when fishing off the shore or a pier.
Round Profile Baitcaster Reels are better for offshore fishing and much larger fish species. The round profile allows the user to have more leverage over the rod and a better control for larger, more intense fish battles. Generally speaking, round profile reels have a much greater line capacity, which is another reason why they are pretty much the standard for offshore fishing.
Conclusion: Our Top-Pick Baitcasting Reel for Offshore and Inshore Fishing
Shopping for fishing gear online is not always an easy task, especially when you are trying to compare intricate mechanical systems like those found inside of a baitcasting reel. For many anglers, it is necessary to pick up the reel, hold it in their hands, and give it a few cranks to see how it is going to perform when they finally get it out on the open water.
When we set out to create a list of the best baitcasting reels for saltwater fishing, we knew that our top pick would have to be a reel that could perform well in a number of different situations and configurations, not to mention a variety of different rigs and baits.
The best reel that satisfies all of these requirements without being too big of a drain on the old wallet is the Squall Level Wind by Penn. In terms of all-around performance at a great price point, this is the pick of the litter. For anything better, you should get ready to fork out $500+ and only see the specs get better by a small margin.
Frequently Asked Questions
When talking about baitcasting reels, the term gear ratio refers to how much line the reel can pull in over the course of one full rotation. A higher gear ratio will pull in more line with every crank, which can be necessary in deep sea situations where you need to pull a fish in over a great distance as quickly as possible. No matter what kind of baitcasting you are planning on doing (on shore, off shore, etc.) you should try to find a reel with a gear ratio no smaller than 1:6; anything smaller than that is more suitable for lake and creek fishing where you don’t have nearly as much line in the water.
Baitcaster reels can be adapted for just about any type of rod. In fact, many freshwater bass fishermen prefer baitcaster reels because they can hold greater amounts of thicker line but still be easily mounted to poles that are intended for bass fishing.
If you are just getting started with baitcasting, then we recommend that you go with a monofilament line. It is much easier to cast than some of the other alternatives like braided line or fluorocarbon, because it is a bit easier on the thumb when you are controlling the cast. Having said that, the strength of your line and the amount of it will both be determined by what kind of fishing you are doing, so it might be worth it to do a bit more research before you cast off for your next offshore fishing trip.
If you neglect to oil your bearings, you could run into a situation where your reel starts to seize up due to the formation of rust on the reel bearings. If you fish quite often, you should consider oiling your bearings ever 2 weeks at least in order to keep your reel operating ideally.